Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Chris & Emma's US Beer Adventure - Part 3 - New York City

This is the final part of our US Beer Odyssey 2012, which was originally posted to Live Journal last year. We thought we'd re-post it to Blogger to give our new beer friends a chance to catch up. We were rubbish about taking photos this time as there was so much beer to be had. Enjoy!

From Portland, ME, we boarded the 'Down-Easter' Amtrak for a pleasant and quiet trip down to New York via Boston. Seriously, why don't more Americans travel by train? This was so much less stressful than driving plus you get to look out the window at the fantastic countryside. Even the food was good and that's saying something. Anyone who's travelled on an intercity train in the UK knows what I'm talking about. Now, back to the beer. We had a couple of half decent beers in the Mad Hatter Saloon on 3rd Ave near where our 'novelty boutique' hotel/hostel was on E 26th Street.
Kelso IPA (unknown) - a medium-bodied IPA with a delightful hoppy flavour with a subtle citrus finish. Doug later told us that it wasn't from the Pacific North West but from the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. Brewed at a place called Greenpoint Beer Works, which makes all of the Heartland Brewery beers as well.
Sam Adams Oktoberfest 5.3% - smooth and malty beer that is easy to drink with a subtle spicy finish. 
Captain Lawrence Pale Ale (unknown) - light-bodied hoppy pale ale that was a refreshing change from the ├╝ber-hoppiness of the Kelso IPA. Emma didn't like this one but I found it drinkable.

The next day, the last day of our trip, we knew that we'd done something pretty epic. 75 different craft beers sampled in 3 weeks was a hell of an achievement. We didn't even think that we could hit 100 when we headed off for lunch at the Heartland brew pub near the Empire State building. A light lunch (food-wise) accompanied by a few samplers and a pint each of their seasonal pumpkin ales then followed.
Heartland Indian River Light (unknown) - light-bodied, easy drinking session ale that has a crisp, fresh citrus finish that is a very subtle orange in flavour. Very drinkable and refreshing with a nice nose to it. 
Heartland Corn Husker Lager (unknown) - surprisingly flavourful for a lager with a soft, subtle taste and a crisp finish. 
Heartland Harvest Wheat Beer (unknown) - subtle nose but disappointing bland for a wheat beer. 
Heartland Red Rooster Ale (unknown) - smooth malty flavour that is well balanced with its subtle hoppy finish. 
Heartland Indiana Pale Ale (unknown) - an average IPA that is drinkable but doesn't bring anything special to the party compared to the Oregon IPAs. 
Heartland Farmer Jon's Oatmeal Stout (unknown) - heavy-bodied stout with a rich coffee bitterness to it. Smooth and drinkable but nowhere near as good as the Ninkasi Oatis porter or the Oakshire Espresso Stout. Emma did not like this at all as it reminded her of trying whiskey when she was younger. 
Heartland NYS Wildflower Wheat 5.5% - subtle honey flavour on the nose, sweet honey flavour at the start but a flat finish. Nice enough but nothing special. Emma liked it though. 
Heartland Smiling Pumpkin Ale 5.5% - smells like a cake. Has a medium body with a richer depth of pumpkin flavour than Shipyard Pumpkinhead. Has a crisp finish. 
Heartland Oak Aged Imperial Pumpkin 8% - a daunting pumpkin nose underlines the initial strong, bold pumpkin flavour but mellows into a rich, warm and complex finish that leaves you longing for more. Possibly one of the best seasonal ales we've had on the trip
Running total: 84

Suddenly, we found ourselves 16 beers from the 100 mark but with only 12 hours left before we had to leave Manhattan and head off to JFK, the whole idea of reaching the ton seemed a bit silly. However, we had not reckoned with the enthusiasm and beer fuelled energy of those perennial booze hounds and Brooklyn residents, Martha and Doug. We met them in Rattle and Hum and explained how far we had managed to come in just a few weeks. With sly grins and mischievous glints in their eyes, they readily agreed to help us reach the 100 mark. The following beers covers what we had in both Rattle and Hum and then Blind Tiger in Greenwich village.
Greenflash Imperial IPA 9.4% - delicious hoppy nose but not overly bitter with a nice smooth finish. Great!
Bear Republic Tartare 4% - this is an interesting beer. Very sharp, almost like vinegar but similar to the Unibrew Ephemere. 
Bluepoint Pumpkin Ale 6% - an average seasonal pumpkin ale with a medium body and a subtle spicy finish. 
Greenport Harbor Gobsmacked 5.2% - mild hoppy nose that underlines a mild hoppy flavour and a subtle crisp finish. 
Great Divide Belgian Yeti 12.2% - really interesting nose with a high complex flavour that strangely tastes of tomato ketchup. Definitely worth looking out for again. 
Stillwater Cellar Door 6.6% - light-bodied and easy drinking. Nothing super awesome about it but still a nice beer. 
Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Bier 7.5% - a teasing nose with a smooth flavour and a very subtle bitterness in the finish. Another nice porter this time from Michigan. 
Bear Republic Racer 5 7% - a nicely balanced IPA with a smooth finish. Californian and pretty damned laid back. Awesome. 
Dogfish Head Thyme 6.3% - a delicious herby nose that makes for an interesting pale ale. 
Ballast Point Sculpin 7% - grapefruit on the nose with a malty backbone and a delicious hoppy finish. 
Firestone Walker Double Jack 9.5% - a double IPA with a very hoppy nose that a belies a complex and deep flavour that entices the taste buds. Another special American beer. 
Lagunitas Brown Shugga - a strong ale with a hoppy nose that has a rounded flavour and a subtle hoppy finish. Doesn't taste strong and I could drink it all day and get totally wasted. 
Firestone Walker Pale Ale 4.9% - not particularly hoppy or malty. Nice and easy to drink so another winner from Firestone Walker.
Victory Storm King (unknown) - whoa, this one has a nose like vinegar but drinks ok. A delicious smokiness but there was just something lacking in it. 
Stone/Ninkasi/The Alchemist More Brown Than Black - an interesting stout that confuses and entices that is a collaboration between three breweries. Ambitious but maybe a bit too adventurous. 
Kuhnhenn Fluffer IPA 4.75% - a light session IPA that has decent flavour and a citrus finish. The 100th beer of our trip.
Dogfish Head Sah'tea (unknown) - has a really strong yeasty nose with a fruity flavour and a weird fizz at the finish.
Victory Prima Pils - crisp and dry lager but probably best enjoyed earlier in the evening.
Stillwater Premium - light-bodied Begian ale with a fruity aftertaste. Very easy to drink. 
Running total: 103

The final beer.
Brooklyn Black Ops - Doug presented this in a dark bottle reminiscent of the 'blood bottle in The Lost Boys. Rich and complex and deeply intriguing. Worthy of the final beer of Beerodessey 2012 and the number 104.

So, that was it. With three hours 'sleep' under our belt, we headed off to JFK so we could stand around and wait for check in to open while nursing slightly fuzzy heads. 104 different craft beers in 3 weeks. Say it aloud and it sounds impressive. Outside of the Great British Beer Festival, I doubt we could have done the same in the UK covering the same sort of distance. So thank you America for proving that you are so much more than Budwieser and Miller. I can't wait until we can visit again and try another 104 different beers.

Post-script: Following the original post we did back in November, our friend Julie from the Starlight Lounge in Eugene contacted us to let us know that we'd missed out a few of the beers that we'd tried there but due to slightly fuzzy memories had forgotten. So added to the list above are these honourable mentions:

541 Lager, Hop Valley
Step Child Red, Hop Valley
Ninkasi IPA
Oakshire IPA
Alaskan Amber Alt Style Ale
Boont Amber Ale, Anderson Valley
Lagunitas IPA

This took our total from 104 to 111 for 3 weeks. Personally, I think that's pretty damn good.

Also here's a link to Martha's BeerSci blog, which we read and enjoy very much. We think you will too...


Unknown said...

Good effort but I did 107 in 8 days when I was in the states last month ;)

I searched high and low for Kelso IPA when I was in NYC a year ago as it was highly recommended to me but to no avail!

Emma said...

You legend. In saying that it was not our intention to try 111 beers in three weeks. If we'd gone with the intention of doing that we would have spent more time in the Pacific North West and NYC, possibly leaving out Maine altogether. Next time it will be a brutally well planned and executed operation.